LEGAL PREFACE: The entire content of this press release was supplied to Shell U.K. Legal Director, Mr Richard Wiseman on 26 April 2004 in his capacity of General Counsel of Shell International Limited. After correspondence by email (published in its entirety on our website shell2004.com) the only change made at his request was in regards to the section covering Shell's Statement of General Business Principles. We have in this connection inserted the exact words requested by Mr Wiseman where it says, "Mr Wiseman has stated in writing that..." This should not be taken as implying that he has approved comments made in relation to the SGBP as this is not the case. For unknown reasons, during the course of recent correspondence, Shell has apparently parted company from Kendall Freeman, the solicitors formally representing the Royal Dutch Shell Group (and its employees) in these matters. This topic is also covered in the published correspondence. Please note that Mr Wiseman made no comment, request, or objection, regarding the accuracy of any other matters covered herein.
Contact information for Mr Wiseman: Telephone No: +44 20 7934 5544; E-mail address: Richard.Wiseman@Shell.com
PRESS RELEASE: REPEATED WARNINGS OF A SHELL CORPORATE CULTURE OF COVER-UP AND DECEPTION WENT UNHEEDED
Last Thursday, 22 April 2004, Shell Legal Director, Richard Wiseman, sent his sincere birthday greetings by e-mail to Alfred Donovan, the 87 year old Chairman of the Shell Shareholders Organisation. This kind gesture was despite the fact that Shell has been in an extraordinary feud with Mr Donovan for over a decade. During the same e-mail, Mr Wiseman updated and reconfirmed earlier admissions he had made in respect of:-
(1) Undercover operations targeted by Shell against Mr Donovan and his family.
(2) A glaring loophole in Shell’s "Statement of General Business Principles" which completely undermines its guarantee of honesty, openness and integrity in all of Shell’s dealings.
The fundamental flaw in the SGBP did not deter
the Chairman of the Shell CMD, Jeroen van der Veer and his Vice Chairman,
Malcolm Brinded from circulating messages to Shell employees worldwide last week
(extracts below) quoting from the “core values” of the SGBP which Mr Wiseman
admits have no legal value whatsoever. They are not binding on Shell and cannot
be relied upon in court. To use his precise terminology, Mr Wiseman has stated
in writing that “there was no intention to create a
document for use in the courts. It was intended to lay down a code of behaviour
by which we think we should be judged by the public at large and in this respect
perhaps define higher standards than some other commercial organisations impose
upon themselves”. (our underlining)
We can only surmise that his recently departed senior colleagues (and some remaining ones) forgot to read the SGBP which solemnly promise integrity, honesty and transparency in all of Shell’s dealings. Mr Wiseman might like to pretend otherwise but the bottom line is that like a bet with a bookmaker, Shell’s much vaunted “core principles” are binding in honour only. In other words, place your complete trust in an already discredited Shell management; in the case of Van der Veer and Brinded, two key players already implicated (up to their necks) in the oil reserves cover-up.
Mr Van der Veer stated the obvious in his message to “Dear colleagues” when he said: “We have to recognise that there will be more media articles in future that are not positive.” Another massive understatement of reserves, this time in regards to any remaining reserve of respect for Shell's once proud reputation. Brinded said in his message of 21 April that "too much optionality" (whatever that is) “can clearly bring difficulties". He admitted that "with hindsight" factors relating to "reserves replacement performance" were not previously clear to him. We are in possession of both messages in their entirety. The information comes from one of a number of Shell whistleblowers - current and former management level employees - one of whom has more "dynamite" information directly relating to the oil and gas reserves debacle. It is likely to be put into the public domain very shortly.
THE REPEATED WARNINGS
The opening paragraph in a recent news story stated: “No one could have ever imagined that behind the stately façade of Shell, Britain's most establishment company, there was a web of intrigue, lying and cover-up that would do justice to a John Grisham novel.”
Documentary evidence proves that Mr Donovan did far more than imagine such things. He mounted a sustained campaign to focus attention on alleged misconduct of Shell senior management. He wrote to every Member of Parliament; the DTI; the ASA and Shell institutional shareholders; he had leaflets circulated outside Shell HQ buildings for several months and at Shell AGM’s; he also operated two websites targeting Shell; he conducted Shell UK retailer surveys under the control of an independent solicitor and published the findings in full page announcements in the trade press. On one occasion 75% of Shell retailers surveyed said Shell management was unethical. Over 200 Shell UK petrol station operators joined the pressure group founded by Mr Donovan.
Mr Donovan’s warnings about Shell were eerily similar in nature to the current news reports about the oil reserves debacle. For example, on 1st March 1999 he wrote to Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands (the Dutch Royal family is a major Shell shareholder) warning her of “a culture of deception and cover-up deeply ingrained at the highest levels of Shell”. As Shell management is aware, he has just written to her again.
Donovan’s leaflets accused Shell management of being “MASTERS OF DOUBLE TALK AND DOUBLE-DEALING”. The headline on one leaflet was “SHELL MANAGEMENT LIES DECEPTION & COVER-UP”. It is perhaps revealing that Shell never sued Mr Donovan for libel. Instead HE sued Shell for libel after Shell displayed posters at its HQ buildings containing defamatory allegations about him and his son. Shell has paid Mr Donovan hundreds of thousands in damages and legal costs in respect of four High Court Actions brought by the Donovan's.
Near the end of November 2002, Richard Wiseman circulated to Shell directors a draft manuscript written by Alfred Donovan. The recipients included *Sir Philip Watts (then Group Chairman), *Mr Malcolm Brinded (Group MD), *Mr Steve Miller (then Chairman, President and CEO of Shell Oil USA), Mr Clive Mather (Chairman of Shell UK Ltd) and Shell Transport director, *Sir Mark Moody-Stuart. All of the starred individuals are named in the pending US class action law suits against Shell alleging fraud and deceit - charges which, based on current news reports, seem well-founded in the case of the relevant individuals who recently resigned. Sir Mark corresponded with Mr Wiseman in respect of the manuscript which contained the following passage: -
“No amount of spin and hype can hide the fact that Shell’s claimed core principle of truth and honesty in all of its dealings is unadulterated propaganda. Like Enron and WorldCom executives, Shell senior management obviously feels that it is okay to hide the truth from its shareholders and the public. This has been proven time and time again in our dealings with them - as the gagging agreements drafted by Shell lawyers at the insistence of Shell senior management prove”.
It is interesting to compare that extract against an article published in The Sunday Telegraph on 25/4/04:-
“Anyway, year after year Shell told its shareholders that it was finding new oil at a rate that made up for the oil it was taking out of the ground. It was falsely claiming a success every bit as misleading as the balance sheet manipulation of Enron or the earnings manipulation of WorldCom.”
The manuscript has been published on the internet since the end of 2002 without any legal challenge from Shell (see shell2004.com) or from any of the above individuals.
During the course of the above litigation Shell hired undercover agents as part of a plan to go on the offensive against Mr Donovan. His family, key witnesses and even their lawyer were besieged and intimidated by undercover operatives. Burglaries were carried out at the residences of these individuals and key documents privileged and otherwise were examined. Thus the integrity of documents was compromised. Threats were also made. A former Shell Manager became too frightened to give evidence on Mr Donovan's behalf. Senior Shell managers – including most of the individuals named in US class action law suits against Shell ignored all protestations about the clandestine activity.
They also ignored evidence of improper conduct by Shell managers conducting a tendering process for a major contract. Companies who thought they were participating in an honest process were deliberately deceived and cheated. 35 companies tendered for a major contract yet it was awarded to a firm which did not participate; a company with whom the Shell manager running the tendering process had a personal relationship. Shell senior management also ignored evidence of an email circulated by the same manager to senior colleagues (in relation to the same project) which contained the following illuminating comment: “My note of 25/10 expressed a personal and pragmatic view of how to handle the problem – it is in fact illegal and is certainly unofficial, and if we were discovered then we will enforce the official position…” Mr Donovan is in possession of the relevant documentary evidence.
Mr Donovan only recently discovered to his consternation that some of the same titled Shell directors to whom he had written bringing these matters to their attention, including a former Shell Group Chairman, were simultaneously the spymasters/shareholders of a shadowy spying organization called Hakluyt, closely linked with the British Secret Service. Hakluyt is staffed by former MI6 officers. Shell has admitted using Hakluyt agents including a serving German Secret Service agent to engage in undercover missions against worthy organisations campaigning against Shell e.g. Greenpeace and Body Shop. This “cloak and dagger” activity was exposed by The Sunday Times in a front page story (17/6/01).
When the Police investigated at Shell UK’s London HQ the threats, burglaries and espionage activity in the Donovan case, Shell apparently did not disclose its ties with Hakluyt, an organisation well versed in the same tactics which had been directed against them. In addition to the covert operations against the Donovan campaign and various worthy NGO’s including Greenpeace and Body Shop, Shell simultaneously set up and paid for a private army of 1400 Police spies supporting the then murderous regime in Nigeria ( Mail on Sunday article 4 April 04 “Shell Chief had a private army”). The “Shell Chief” in question was Sir Philip Watts.
Mr Donovan says: “Under the circumstances the cover-up, deception and intrigue at Shell regarding the shortfall in oil and gas reserves hold no great surprises to me. I have felt like my family was up against the mafia, not the great company I once admired.”
Relevant Correspondence with Richard Wiseman is published on this website.
Issued by Shell Shareholders Organisation on 27 April 2004 (email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
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